Archive for the ‘Fishing and Hawaii experiences’ Category

My Journey by rubber raft from Waianae to Samoa

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Have you ever noticed how we always reach farther than we should? It is the apple on the next branch, it is the next job in line, it is casting another ten feet.  We always want to reach just a tad bit farther than we can. In fact, Ms. Sommerville, my high school English teacher wrote in my senior album, “A man’s reach should always exceed his grasp.” 

In Hawaii, this played out for me in the form of a gut wrenching need to get a bit out from the shore to go fishing.  I had no hope of ever buying a boat to go fishing so I schemed about this that or the other thing.  I actually obtained about 4 huge truck inner tubes and tried to figure out how to put them together in a usable raft. (Eat your heart out Steve McQueen (Papillon)) No way.  Then, I got a nice little blow up boat.  Success was at hand!

I carried the boat over to the beach a scant 300 feet from my house.  I huffed and puffed and finally had it blown up.  I think the inside part was about three feet wide and the length was maybe eight feet.  I loaded all my stuff up and headed out into the little bay off my beach.  Wow, theory and practice.  I got out about three hundred feet from the shore and discovered this little blow up boat did not really tolerate any kind of movement.  As a matter of fact, when I sat in the middle, the ends folded up over my face and the back of my head.  When I moved to the back or the front, the balance of the boat would butterfly up from the unoccupied end and I felt like I was trying to “hang ten.” 

Realizing this was another failed theory, I decided to head for shore. Now, it got really, really fun.  It had been so easy to get out but reversing the process was not going quite so well.  The little paddle was fit more for a bathtub in my house than for God’s bathtub–the Pacific Ocean.  Then, the wind picked up and I hit the trade currents.  The harder and faster I paddled, the further away from Maili I seemed to be going.  Madly searching my tackle box, I discovered I had left my high blood pressure pills at home. 

After about fifteen minutes, I believe I was nearly a 1000 feet out from the shore.  Way more than I wanted to “reach.”

I was truly becoming afraid.  I just could not reverse my movement.  I began to search my mind for alternative options.  How about abandoning everything and swimming in?  How about trying to make for the eastern shore of the bay?  Swimming was not really viable as it was too far.  I felt the eastern shore, about a mile away, was just too far to make as I would pass the point of the Island and be out into the ocean.   I checked my tackle box and was further discouraged. No Samoan Dictionary!  Do Samoans speak English?  Would I make it to American Samoa and not French Polynesia?  Fear gripped my soul, but fortunately it also made me sit back, take a deep breath and open my eyes.  God gave me the clarity to see I was working against my mother–nature that is. 

I began to time my paddling with the action of the waves.  I found if I took advantage of the wave action, the wave would help push me against the outward currents towards the shore.  Gradually, I began to work my way back towards the shore.  About 30 minutes later, I shakily drug my almost useless rubber raft up the beach, let the air out and went home.

No Tuna, Papio, Ulua, Sharks, or even a rock fish.  But, I did not have to learn Samoan either! I did learn to wait on God, to watch my surroundings and work with nature rather than to fight against it. These are lessons that apply across so many aspects of life.  I have tried to apply these principals in my life and sometimes I do, other times, I am looking for that Samoan Dictionary.


PS.  If you ever want to read a great book about a sail boat trip from Oahu to French Polynesia, check out Nevil Shute’s “Trustee from a (or the) Toolroom.  It is a great book.  The journey described would have been much better had they taken along an Emmrod Gulf Master II and an Emmrod Kayak King to do their fishing along the way.  They did not have the Internet, but you do!  Check them out at,,

The Day the Ocean Almost Ate My Son

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Over the course of my life, I have had a number of occasions where Mother Earth gave me a glimpse of her raw, naked power.  I know why we attribute a female nature to “Earth.”  We do not say “Father Earth.”  It is always “Mother Earth.”  It must be that ability to go from Peace, Light and Beauty to raging, unbridled explosion of the energized screaming heebee jeebees in virtual nanoseconds, and then, return to Peace, Light and Beauty as if there had been no change since the previous calm.  Perhaps I need to have Billy Joel add a verse to “She’s Only a Woman to me.”  Well, I digress.

Today’s memories will be three vignettes of Mother Nature’s wildness as demonstrated by the Ocean.

I made two trips to the Sulu Sea.  In my first trip during the very early 1960’s, we left Mindanao on an inter-island freighter.  Even with the expanded memories of my young eyes–10-11 years old at the time, I do not recall this freighter being very large.  Perhaps a hundred feet long.  I do not recall a lot of steel like the freighters that plied between the US and the Philippines which I clearly recall from my trips back and forth across the Pacific. In my mind’s eye, I recall a wooden boat.  It had a main cargo bay in which most of the people also sat.  The primary cargo was copra.  Copra is the fruit of a mature coconut after the coconut is halved and the meat is popped out.  The meat is dried, bagged in large burlap bags and transported to processing centers where any number of products are made. Much of it is squeezed dry and the oil saved for use in soaps, lotions and cosmetics. In its unprocessed state, it has a very strong odor.  Not unpleasant, in normal circumstances.  These inter-island boats are powered by large diesel engines which, in this case seem to leave a lot of the fumes in the hold.

As we started our journey from Southern Mindanao and hopped from island to island loading and unloading goods and people on a journey that would almost reach Indonesia’s outer islands, the ocean was smooth, loving, nururing and pleasant.  Several hours into the trip that changed. I do not recall the transition, although there must have been one.  I just remember vividly as the waves grew, the violence of the freighter’s shaking motion grew. The waves were over the top of the boat and at least 30 to 35 feet high. The babies were crying, the mothers were vomiting.  The copra was emitting its fragrance in seemingly more potent quantities.  The diesel engines pumped more fumes into this cacophony of smell and sound.  It became unbearable to me and I felt myself becoming ill.  I was regretting the fine supper I had experienced before boarding. Finally, I went up to the top of the freighter.  Although seeing the violence of the ocean was frightening, the wind did clear my head which magically calmed my stomach.  I remained up top for the rest of the trip.  I do not know if Jonah was on board and the crew heaved him over the side or if there was another reason, but, within a few hours, the wind died to nothing, the sea was glassy and smooth with the rest of our voyage moving forward without incident.

On another day in the late 1980’s, I went fishing off the rocks about a half mile beyond the end of the road in Makaha, Waianae Coast, Oahu, Hawaii.  These rocks, while old, are not so old as to have been ground down by the forces of the winds and tides.  On the contrary, they are razor edged from almost any angle you touch them.  They are not smooth but full of ridges, crags, valleys, cuts and breaks.  When walking you need to pay attention.  You better not try them barefoot.  But, if you can get out to the edge, you can catch some very nice fish.  All that makes these rocks hard to walk on makes them great habitat for fish.  On the day I went fishing there, the ocean was calm, the sky was blue and it was just beautiful out. Now, waves come in sets, typically, about 7 in a group.  You start with a small wave and the waves grow in size until the seventh which is the largest, then, it starts over again.  You must watch the waves when near the edge.  I do not think most of us out on those rocks that day were paying much attention.  Suddenly, one wave came roaring up from the depths.  It dwarfed all the large waves of the preceding hour. It was as if Neptune had been forking a bit out of each wave that came by to stockpile for a single big onslaught against the interlopers on the rocks. The wave came boiling out of the depths, crashing over the rocks in places almost three to four feet deep.  Fortunately for me, I was on a rock a bit above the fray.  Unfortunately for one young lady, she was in a bit of a low spot.  The wave grabbed her, threw her down on the rocks and drug her about 50 or 60 feet back in towards the path.  Then, with a barely a whimper, the water all dribbled away.  However, the witness remained.  This lady was wearing a bathing suit. Her right leg had been dragged over the lava rock the entire distance and was sliced, diced and lacerated from her thigh to her calf.  It was an ugly site indeed.  Someone called an ambulance to come to minister to her.

Finally, on another day, probably in late 1985, I was outside of our Makaha condominium playing on the beach with my daughter and son.  My daughter was up a ways playing in the dry sand.  My two year old was a bit lower and I was even closer to the water fishing.  Suddenly, this same Neptune thrown abnormal wave came roiling out of the depths. Before I knew it, Willie was rolling towards the Ocean.  Had I been three feet further away, I doubt I could have caught him. But, thank God, I was able to grab him before he became victim of the Ocean’s insatiable hunger.

Thus, over my life I have learned, the power of Nature is awesome.  Do not take either the calm or the storm for granted.  Our lives are nothing against it.  I thank God for protecting me and mine in those cases were the line between life and death, health and ill can be so thin.

For information on the Emmrod fishing system, go to,

Commercial Fishing vs. Sport fishing

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

I find myself conflicted.  I really detest fishing nets and long line fishing.  On the other hand, I like cheap fish at my local stores!  How do we find a middle ground? Wikipedia has a fairly good pro and con article on Long Line Fishing which I will not regurgitate here.  But, the long and short of it is the various jurisdictions are working hard with the commercial fisheries to craft both product and procedures to avoid the negative aspects of Long Line Fishing yet keep it as a viable means of meeting our commercial fish production needs.

What are the primary negative aspects?  From an ecological point of view, they are:  Catching unwanted species of fish;  catching birds–about 100,000 albatross die each year as a result of long line fishing per the Wiki article; and catching turtles.  I will add one more to that.  They just take too many fish.  A multi mile long line with hundreds or even thousands of hooks has the capability to decimate the fish population in an area.  In fairness, the law recognizes the state of the fishery and limits or raises the number of hooks permitted based on the number of fish available to catch.

My strong feelings are based on what I observed in Hawaii.  I do not recall why, but a number of long liner boats were fishing near Guam or Samoa, I forget which, and went afoul of the government or the people there. In any case, they moved to Hawaii.  They were dragging lines within legal limits; however, were not obeying local custom. Local custom, if I recall correctly said long liners had to stay at least 20 miles out; however, legally, they could be within a few, two or three? miles of the shore.  They were encouraged to obey local custom but declined. There was virtually an instant decline of the fisheries within 20 miles of the coast and this was the fishery the tourist trade, local recreational and small scale commercial fishers used.  I am not aware of the politics involved, but, would guess the powers that be within the local community, the business community and the ethnic Hawaiian as a subset of the local community raised such a stink the state government felt compelled to change the rules and pushed that long line fishing limit back out to the 20 mile, or perhaps even the 26 mile limit.  The close in fishery almost immediately began to get better.

So as a recurring theme, we need to continue to seek that middle ground where we preserve our resources, recognize the value of all the players and consumers and determine how to meet our corporate needs as people, yet meet the needs of each of the groups involved.  Total environmental fascism is clearly not the answer.  Neither is fishing it all out until it is gone.  God has given us huge resources and technological skill and a huge amount of ocean.  Let’s see how to put it all together.

While the brilliant minds are out their figuring out how to do this, check out my Emmrod fishing system at which you can access at any of the following addresses:,,,,,,

One of the biggest fish I ever caught and why I was glad it got away!

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I lived in the little town of Maili, Ohau Island, Hawaii from 1985 to 1992. I was gone mucht of that time on the road to South East Asia (SEA) but made time to go fishing when I was home.  We lived five houses from the main highway that circled the Island, almost.  On the far side of the highway was a beautiful beach and the ocean.   It does not get more convenient than that! 

My pole was about ten feet long and I used a large open face spinning reel.   I had a large swivil at the end of the line, then put a leader with a weight on it and threw it out as far as possible, maybe a 120 feet or so.  The weight would normally hang up in the rocks so you could have a good tight line that would not be thrown back up onto the beach by the wave action.  When you had a hit, the lighter line attached to the weight would break and you could fight your fish.   I baited my nice sized hook with a long strip of squid or eel, and put a heavy duty leader on it that was tied to a swivil type clip.  After clipping the baited hook and leader to the line, it would work its way out to sea until it hit the larger swivel at the end of the line.  After getting it all set I up, I placed the pole in a holder stuck in the sand, hooked a bell to the line, picked up a book, pretended to read it while I watched the girls and waited for the bell to ring.

Most of the times, the bell did not ring. Long Line fishing was in a state of flux with many long liners plying the close in waters. (See my blog on long line fishing.)  Yet one day, the bell went nuts!  I grabbed the pole and jerked it back with some strength.  For the next 45 minutes or so, I fought something, but had no idea what it was.  I just knew I was getting tired.  Meanwhile a big crowd of people gathered on the top of the berm behind me waiting to see what monster I had hooked.  Finally, it showed in the surf near the beach.  A HUGE turtle! 

No way!  I can’t keep it, even though they make great soup and the shells look great in combs.  But even worse, it is illegal to hurt them or do anything to them.  On the other hand, if I just cut the line, it will be a death penalty for the turtle eventually.  So, I just kept fighting it hoping to get close enough to use my pliers to remove the hook or at least cut the line very close to the turtle so it won’t strangle in it. 

All of a sudden, there was a big wave and my line was slack. I was SO happy, the big one got away!  I think everyone on the beach sighed a sigh of relief with me.  Go back to the wild, lay a lot of eggs and avoid the turtle eaters in life.

I do think, if I had been using my Emmrod Packer, with a bait casting reel and a gulf master tip, I would likely have been able to land it.  So, I guess we just need to be happy they were not invented at that time!   But, if you are going to fish for some large fish, read the earlier story on Mel and look at some of the heavy duty options on my website which can be reached at any of these addresses:,,,,,,

The Eel in the Fridge

Friday, December 11th, 2009

When we first moved to Hawaii in 1985, we lived temporarily in a condominium on the far west end of Oahu Island.  We were about a half mile from the end of the road.  Where the road ended was about a mile walk from the northwest tip of Oahu and not that far from the big wave surf beaches of the North Shore.  But, this story is not about surfing.  My only story about that involved a brief stop in Oahu in 1969.  I stopped for a day or two on the way back from high school in Manila to live with my uncle, aunt and cousin in Birmingham, Alabama.  One stop was at Waikiki to hang out with some of my classmates who had also stopped there.  I borrowed a surf board from a guy.  Saw the wave coming, climbed on the board, the wave arrived, the wave went, and the board sank. Story of my life!

This is about fishing.  I really did not have a clue about HOW to fish for anything, but, I found a likely spot, went out about 8 pm, and fished for an hour or two.  The only thing I managed to get was a snarly Morey eel.  Dude was NOT a lady!  It was ugly as sin.  I had heard these could be skinned and cut into long strips which were great for Ulua fishing. This is a big eyed Jack that weighs over ten pounds if I recall correctly.  Mostly we saw the babies which were Papio.  So, I kept it. 

By the time  I got home, I was really tired.  Instead of taking time to clean it, I just put it in a sauce pan, put the lid on it and stuck it in the fridge.  I headed towards bed but got to worrying.  My wife gets up way before I do.  I did not think she would be filled with joy and thanksgiving at her husband’s great hunting prowess.  Also, my wife is from Thailand and most things that look like snakes from that part of the world are not something with which normal people want anything to do.  I went back and wrote a note and taped it to the pot lid.


I think she actually opened it. Due to the warning, she was not scared.  On the other hand, she was not impressed with “Today’s Catch.”

I did skin it and use it to try to catch some fish. Caught some little ones, but nothing to write home about.

As a point of interest, due to the coral and rock and lava on the ocean floor, you could not put the hook on the end of the line  and the weight up higher.  We would put a large swivil on the line with the leader above the swivil and capabile of sliding up and down the line a bit.  Then, we would put a lighter line below the swivil with a weight at the end.  We expected to loose the weight as that would catch in the rocks and the weight leader would break letting you recover your hook and any fish that might be on it.  If the weight was above the hook, you would likely loose the entire rig and most importantly, the fish.  At times, you would cast out and set the weight in the rocks, then, hook the leader with the bait on the line and let it float down to the swivil.  Typically, we would park the pole in a holder in the sand of the beach, put a bell on the pole, sit down and read a book, cook or sleep until the bell rang. 

To use the Emmrod fishing system like I used to fish, I would use the Gulf Master or the Gulf Master II.  You can check these out at or

A couple more things I learned at the dry dock.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I really enjoyed my time working at the Barbers Point dry dock in the mid 80’s.  It was a job I did until the investigations of the cases of Americans missing in South East Asia kicked in late September 1988.  At that time, I became the NCOIC of the Investigations branch and went on the road constantly for the next three years.  As much as I loved fishing at the dry dock and hated to give up my part time job, I was thrilled to do this exciting work in SEA.  I will include some blogs about Vietnam later.

However, two incidents stand out in my mind from my time on the dock. 

There came a night when we had the spot light focused just off the end of the dry dock about about ten feet from shore.  I would guess there water was about 20 feet, maybe even a bit deeper there.  The light penetrated easily to about 15 feet.  There were at least two nice schools of fish.  We were pretty casual about other folks fishing in our light and as I recall two or three of the employees were fising off the end of the dry dock and there were one or two guys fishing from the bank.  Another guy came along and asked for permission to “throw a net.”  I told him he was welcome to throw a line, but, if he threw a net, I would get out my knife and cut the net up.  He pulled out a pole and caught some nice fish.

I do not know why nets upset me so.  I guess as a short fat kid growing up, I developed a bit of feeling for the under dog. Those stinking nets take everything, there is with no chance of escape.  If I had let him throw the net, he would have cleaned out the fishing for a long time to come.  On the other hand, there was almost always someone fishing there both day and night.  We never sufferred from a shortage of fish.  So the moral of that story is, let’s shepherd our resources so we can all enjoy them for a long time and have the courage to stand for some reasonable principals.


The other conversation I recall was with a guy named Alex.  He was a big guy.  Chinese extraction but about six feet tall and certainly over three hundred pounds, not that I ever picked him up or weighed him.  I did notice whenever he walked on to the dry dock, the dock tipped.  He was from “The Big Island”  (Hawaii). We were chatting during a slow time one night and he asked where I lived.  The conversation went like this:  “Hey, where you stay?”  “I stay Waianae side.” “You stay Waianae side? What one hauli boy stay Waianae Side fo?  Kinda rough, yeah?”  “I nevah get no problem deah.” 

In other words, he could not fathom (seing we are talking about the ocean), how a white guy would live out in the Waianae coast area.  Now, I was not the only white guy out there, but, it certainly was an area that was primarily “local people” from Hawaii.  I got to thinking on the subject and figured out it really has more to do with how we ourselves behave than anything else. I have been a minority or foreigner most of mylife.  I grew up as a third culture kid.  That is a child who grows up in a country that is not his own.  Diplomats, overseas businessmen, missionaries, military kids fit the bill for this definition.  The Thais call these children “Chamelion people.”  It is an apt expression.  All my life I had worked at fitting into the society where I was temporarily residing.  No where was home, but, you figured out how to fit in.  It worked the same in Waianae.  You made it a point to “talk story” over your fence with your neighbor.  You did not have to agree with everything, you just had to be friendly. You made it a point to meet the guys down the street.  You made it a point to meet AND HELP people in the community.  It was amazing how kind, helpful and wonderful the people were.  To me, it was not “rough” at all.   It was a blessed and joyous seven years I thank God for having the opportunity to enjoy.

So, when in Rome, eat spaghetti!  When near water, Fish with the Emmrod Fishing System!  Check them out at

Why you should get a night watchman job on a dry dock!

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

My last duty station in the military was at Barbers Point, Hawaii.  In 1987 and a bit of 1988, I worked part time as a night watchman on a dry dock just outside of Barbers point.  In and of itself, there are quite a few interesting stories to tell about that.  This dry dock was involved in making the decorations depicting bomb strikes on the vessles used to film “Winds of War.”  That was neat to see.  Then, there was the huge sailboat we had in the dock for about six months while we cleaned it up and fixed the break in the keel which was caused by not blocking it correctly.  At least, that is what the owners said.  Then, there were other boats that came and went including a submarine which was also used in the movie. 

Now, those things are neat, but not the reason why you take a low paying night time job.  You take it because these little man made bays off the ocean are prime breeding areas for all kinds of fish.  On top of that, you have a huge spotlight at your disposal to draw the fish to the good ol’ fishing hole.  We had so much fun fishing there.

I have tried to recall and look up names of fish we frequently caught and have struggled on both accounts.  There was a large eyed Jack we called Papio.  I think when it got over five or ten pounds we called it ulua.  What we caught off the end of the dock was Papio.  These were a nice silver fish that tasted great.  When they hit, the really fought and were great fun to catch.   They tended to school with a reddish colored fish whose name I could not locate.  It too tasted quite nice.  If you caught an eight inch fish of either type, we figured they were pretty big.  Then, there was the Oio.  This is a Ladyfish or Bonefish.  These were really fun.  They looked a bit like Walleyes and were typically 18 to 24 inches long.  You cleaned these fish by “Spooning” them.  To do this you cut off the tail about an inch into the fish.  Then, you took a large spoonand gradually worked the meat out the cut end of the fish.  It would squirt out like toothpast.  Then, you took the bowlful of meat and mixed it up with eggs and other spices and vegetables and made deep fried meatballs from it.

My FAVORITE fish to catch was the Hammerheads.  They were about two feet long and fought like crazy. It would take about 20 minutes to land each one.  The interesting thing about these fish was they stunk to heaven.  But, if you gutted them and let them hang in the water overnight, they cleaned right up and you had some very good meet with no bones.  MMM MMM  MMM!  If you ever fish for hammerheads, be very careful of their teeth and skin.  The first one I caught sliced me like a razor and the skin is like an 80 grit sandpaper so handle with care.

I just wish I had had my Emmrod fishing poles back then.  It would have been so easy to put all my gear in a little bucket and have it convenient to go fishing.  The packer to bring in those guys you caught with bait and the kayak king to go after the Oio and Hammerheads by spinning.  Yes sir, if the opportunity to get a job on a dry dock presents itself, jump for it!

I am going to put in a word of caution.  I am not sure how healthy these fish were.  Who knows what kind of impact those rusting hulks we cleaned up had on the water in there.  But, my last kid was born after we ate a lot of these fish and I was not able to sell him to the circus. On the contrary, he has his Mother’s good looks, His father’s wife’s intelligence, graduated from Whitworth University summa cum laude and is now teaching English for the Japanese Government in Japan. 

Check out the Emmrod fishing system at,,